Attica Enterprises S.A. History
Telephone: (30) 210 891 9500
Fax: (30) 210 891 9509
Incorporated: 1918 as General Company of Commerce and Industry of Greece
Sales: EUR 385.5 million ($462 million)(2003)
Stock Exchanges: Athens
Ticker Symbol: ATTE GA
NAIC: 483111 Deep Sea Freight Transportation; 551112 Offices of Other Holding Companies; 483113 Coastal and Great Lakes Freight Transportation; 483212 Inland Water Passenger Transportation; 488510 Freight Transportation Arrangement; 561510 Travel Agencies; 561520 Tour Operators
Attica Enterprises endeavors to control and operate leading modern brands in the sectors of sea transportation and leisure. Europe is our home market. We strive for the highest professional standards providing our customers with services of better value for money than any of our competitors. The services we offer must manifest our commitment to providing customers a service with safety, reliability, punctuality, technical competence, quality, flexibility and innovation.
- General Company of Commerce and Industry of Greece, which later becomes the publicly listed company Attica Flour Mills, is founded.
- Pericles Panagopoulos sets up his own cruise line company, Royal Cruise Lines (RCL).
- RCL takes delivery of its first vessel, the Golden Odyssey, and enters the United States "fly-cruise" market.
- Panagopoulos sells RCL to Kloster Cruise Lines for $250 million.
- Panagapolus buys Attica Flour Mills, renames it Attica Enterprises, then places an order for two "Superfast" ferries.
- Attica takes delivery of Superfast I and Superfast II, launching service between Greece and Italy.
- The company orders four more ferries to increase its fleet to eight vessels by 2000.
- Attica acquires 38 percent (later 48.6 percent) of Sprintzis Lines to enter the domestic inter-islands market.
- Ferry service between Hanko, Finland, and Rostock, Germany, begins.
- Rosyth-Zeebrugge service is launched.
- Superfast is named the United Kingdom's best ferry operator by Holiday Which? magazine.
Greece's Attica Enterprises S.A. is the leading specialist operator of international ferry services in Europe. The company acts as a holding company for its two main shipping operations, Superfast Ferries and Blue Star Ferries. Superfast Ferries is the company's international component, with a fleet of ten high-speed ferries offering passenger and freight service across most of Europe's major seaways. Superfast is the leading provider of ferry services between Greece and Italy, serving Ancona, Brindisi and Bari in Italy across the Adriatic Sea from the Greek ports of Patras and Igoumenitsa. Since the 2000s, the company has also become the leading ferry services company on the Hanko, Finland, to Rostock, Germany, route. Superfast has also established a major on the Zeebrugge, Belgium, to Rosyth, Scotland, route. The opening up of Greece's inter-island market has enabled the company to establish a strong presence at home as well through its controlling stake in Strintzis Lines Shipping S.A., which operates under the Blue Star Ferries name. Blue Star serves most of Greece's major island groups, including the Ionian, Dodecanese, and Cyclades islands, as well as Crete. Attica Group was formed in the early 1990s by chairman and CEO Pericles S. Panagopoulos and later joined by his son, Alexandros Panagopoulos. Listed on the Athens Stock Exchange, Attica achieved revenues of EUR 385.5 million ($462 million) and net profits of EUR 28.3 million ($34 million) in 2003.
From Cruise Vessels to Ferries: 1970s-90s
Born into an Athens hotel family, Pericles Panagopoulos's own career interests turned to shipping. By the age of 15, Pangopulos had joined his uncle Eugene Eugenides' steamship company, Home Lines, working weekends and on school holidays. Panagopoulos went on to study business and economics, pursuing his education in Greece, as well as in England and Switzerland. After completing his studies, Panagopoulos worked in various positions in the shipping industry, including passenger lines, but also in cargo and reefer shipping. By the late 1960s, Panagopoulos's career had taken him to Greek cruise ship operator, Sun Lines.
Tourist travel to Greece and its islands had begun to take off in the 1960s, and by the middle of the decade the country was hosting more than three million visitors per year. Greek ship owners, largely from the country's islands, built up fleets of cruise and other ships, buying largely second-hand craft that could be converted to the tourism trade. For the most part, however, Greek cruise lines stayed close to their domestic home base, rarely venturing into international waters. This was in part because shippers preferred the high level of government protectionism that more or less blocked foreign shippers from entering the Greek market. Yet the Greek tourist trade remained highly seasonal, with a great deal of activity during the summer months and tourist traffic practically at a standstill during the off-season.
Panagopoulos decided to break this mold by launching his own cruise line company at the beginning of the 1970s. Under Panagopoulos's model, his ships would work Greece's ports during the summer, then move on to North America, serving the so-called "fly-cruise" U.S. market along the Mexican Riviera. In order to launch his business, named Royal Cruise Lines, Panagopoulos took out a mortgage on his property in Athens. For his first vessel, Panagopoulos broke from the Greek market standards and placed an order for a vessel to be built-to-order for Royal Cruise Lines in Denmark.
Panagopoulos took delivery on the vessel, the Gold Odyssey, in 1974. The success of Royal Cruise Lines' business model, later extended to include cruises in Alaska, Scandinavia, the South Pacific, and the Far East, enabled the company to survive the difficult economic climate of the late 1970s. Panagopoulos also maintained a small fleet of cargo ships as an added source of revenues. Nonetheless, as the company prepared to expand its fleet, it was forced to opt for a second-hand vessel for its second ship. Bought from Home Lines in 1982, the new ship was re-commissioned as the Royal Odyssey.
Strong growth through the early 1980s enabled Royal Cruise Lines to commission a new ship in 1985. The Crown Odyssey, as it was called, became the company's flagship when it was delivered in 1988. Yet, less than two years later, Panagopoulos, then fifty-five years old, decided to retire. In November 1989, Panagopoulos agreed to sell Royal Cruise Lines to Denmark's Kloster Cruises, later known as Norwegian Cruise Lines. Kloster's purchase price for Royal Cruise Lines was reported as high as $300 million.
A New Career in Retirement: 1990s
Panagopoulos's plans to retire did not last long, however. By 1992, he had decided to return to passenger shipping with a new idea. In 1992, Panagopoulos bought a dormant company, known as Attica Enterprises. That company had started out in 1918 as General Company of Commerce and Industry of Greece but later focused on producing and trading flour under the name of Attica Flour Mills.
Panagopoulos renamed the company Attica Enterprises and began preparations to launch into a new shipping area--that of international ferry services, joined now by his son Alexandros. Panagopoulos's new concept involved the use of new high-speed vessels capable of transporting both freight and passengers. In 1975, Attica Enterprises set up a new subsidiary, Attica Maritime, and took delivery of its first two vessels, named Superfast I and Superfast II. The ships were put into service serving the route across the Adriatic Sea between Patras in Greece and Ancona in Italy. With speeds of up to 26 knots, the Superfast ships trimmed some eight hours off the usual travel times. The voyage of just 20 hours allowed Superfast to begin offering daily ferry service.
Attica Maritime changed its name to Superfast Ferries as the company quickly became a major force in a revitalized Adriatic shipping market. The success of the Superfast formula permitted the company to place an order for two new ferries in 1996. Built at the Kvearner Shipyard in Finland, the new vessels, Superfast III and Superfast IV were delivered in 1998 and placed on the Patras-Ancona route. The company then shifted its original pair of ferries to serve two new routes, between Patras and Bari, Italy, and between Igoumenitsa and Bari. The company later added Brindisi, in Italy, as well.
European Ferry Leader in the 2000s
Soon after receiving its third and fourth ferries, Attica decided to branch out beyond the Adriatic Sea, eyeing routes in the Baltic Sea. In 1998, the company commissioned four new Superfast ferries at the Howaldtswerke ship yard in Germany, with an option for two additional ferries. By 1999, the company's growing business encouraged it to exercise that option in 1999. The company took delivery of the first two of the new Superfast series that year; these were put into service supporting the company's Adriatic Sea operations. By then, Superfast had firmly established itself as the leader in that market, with a more than 30 percent share.
Attica also sought to establish a position in the Aegean Sea. In 1999, the company agreed to buy a 38 percent stake in publicly listed Strintzis Lines SA, later taking control of that company with more than 48.6 percent. Strintzis, which was renamed Blue Star Ferries under Attica, had gone public in 1993 in order to support its own launch onto the Greek-Italian sea route. Yet, Blue Star's largest business remained in the Greek inter-island sector, in which Strintzis, founded by Gerasimos Strintzis, had become the market leader. Blue Star brought Attica 11 more ferries as well as a number of new vessels on order. These included a new state-of-the-art ferry, the Blue Star Ithaki, built by Daewoo Heavy Industries in Korea. That vessel was put into service in the Cyclades island chain in 2000. Two more Blue Star ferries, built by Van der Giessen de Noord, in the Netherlands, were delivered in 2000 as well.
By now, Attica had already put in an order for two new Superfast ferries to be built by Germany's Flender Werft, with delivery slated for 2002. These were needed to back up the company's winning bid for the operation of a new ferry service between Scotland's Rosyth and the European continent. In 2001, Attica decided on Belgium's Zeebrugge as the continental port of the new line. That service, which marked Scotland's first-ever direct link to the European continent, was launched in 2002.
The delivery of Superfast VII, followed soon after by Superfast VIII, enabled the company to open up a new service between Hanko in Finland and Rostock in Germany. That service was an immediate success, and Superfast became the leading ferry operator in the Baltic Sea as well.
With the delivery of the latest Superfast ferries (IX and X), Attic began seeking buyers for it original vessels. In 2002, the company sold Superfast III and IV to Australia's TT-Line Pty, backed by the Government of Tasmania, for $152 million. That same partnership purchased a third vessel from Attica, the Superfast II, in 2003. At this point, Attica had taken delivery on the last pieces of its Superfast fleet, with the delivery of XI in July 2002 and XII in October of that same year.
As it gained majority control of Blue Star, Attica began reorienting that company to focus on the Greek market, with new services opening in the Dodecanese islands in 2002, and a new route linking Piraeus and Crete in 2003. As part of its refocusing, Blue Star ended its ferry service between Greece and Venice that year.
Early in 2004, Attica sold off the vessel that had started it all, when the Atlantic Navigazione, part of Italy's Grimaldi Group, agreed to purchase the Superfast I. By then, Attica was celebrating steadily rising revenues, which topped EUR 385 million ($462 million) in 2003, and strong reputation for the quality of its service. In 2004, the company received recognition as the best ferry operator in the United Kingdom according to the Holiday Which? magazine.
Principal Subsidiaries: Strintzis Lines Shipping SA (48.6%); Superfast Ferries SA.
Principal Competitors: J Lauritzen A/S ; Navigation Maritime Bulgare; Caspian Shipping Company; Compania de Navigatie Fluviala Romana S.A.; Stena Line Scandinavia AB; A.S. Eesti Merelaevandus; Tirrenia di Navigazione S.p.A.; Stena Line UK Ltd.; Irish Continental Group plc; Scandlines Danmark A/S.
- "Attica Deal, Exchanges Show Greece Is Open for Business," Euroweek, October 12, 2001, p. 20.
- Clough, Juliet, "Over the Sea to Europe," Mail on Sunday, December 16, 2001, p. 94.
- Hope, Kerrin, "Superfast Success," Europe, March 1998, p. 42.
- "A Trendsetter That Has Put Its Rivals through Their Paces," Lloyds List, May 22, 2003.
Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol.64. St. James Press, 2004.